When it comes to 3D printing we want it all. Speed is at the top of the list though, as no one really wants to wait 48 hours for one print, and especially not in an industrial scenario. With those timeframes it hardly even makes sense to use the technology—and especially just for a single piece, hard to find otherwise or not. And while one manufacturer might make a fast 3D printer, if they don’t tie together all the other items we need, again, what’s the point? High resolution, high quality, and the ability to use versatile materials for making both large and small models are all very important.
Structo is of course more than aware of all these issues and needs, and that’s why they’ve spent over three years in R&D to make a new technology which restructures SLA printing for industrial customers. Keeping in mind with traditional printers that the bigger the model is, the more layers will need to be put down—thus causing more time in 3D printing—they sought to reverse that. And not by simply adding more nozzles, printheads, or lasers.
Their new printer uses an LED array light source and a liquid crystal film mask technology (MSLA) which allows for much greater speed, no matter the size. With MSLA, Structo is harkening back to a type of mask lithography used for integrated circuit manufacturing. This new technology allows for control of regions that are illuminated by the light source. All features within the XY plane are cured in one exposure.
“Structo’s method is uniquely capable of being scaled to industrial dimensions without sacrificing light intensity per unit surface area and thereby printing speed,” says Huub Van Esbroeck, one of Structo’s founders.
Essentially, when light passes through the liquid crystal panel and hits photocurable resin, it’s instantly cured. A layered approach is still met as a new mask pattern is transferred to the panel for each layer of the object. It only takes two to five seconds for each layer to cure—and that’s for any size object.
“Structo has matched the emission wavelength of the light source to the peak absorption wavelength of its resin formulations, thus optimizing the speed of printing by the fastest possible curing process,” states Dhruv Sahgal, head of Business Development & Sales Efforts at Structo.
What makes this superior to the DLP printer is while that technology can indeed print larger objects, quality becomes diminished. There is no sacrifice in using the liquid crystal mask panels since they ‘can be manufactured to virtually any size and resolution.’ No tradeoff is required here, but with DLP 3D printing, there will always will be when it comes to build size surface area and XY resolution.
With DLP, light intensity is not equal in all areas due to the single-point emitter. This means that quite commonly portions of the print are being overexposed in the middle but underexposed along the outer edges. That offers a pretty big selling point for Structo’s new MSLA technology, with equal light intensity being provided for the entirety of the print—all at much higher speeds.
MSLA technology offers a true example of progress being made in the 3D printing industry, as speed, quality, and the ability to print larger models are all offered—without sacrifice. Structo has also developed a range of polymer materials to work with this new technology and a variety of applications.
According to Dhruv, right now Structo is moving from research and development into technology commercialization, and is offering beta tests for selected users. We’ve followed this Singapore-based company regarding their Omniform and OrthoForm 3D printers, and their involvement in the healthcare and dental industries, as well as their recent Structo PrintWorks software platform which is fully able to be integrated with the entire line of Structo 3D printers, including the high-capacity, industrial-scale RapidForm that was designed to offer a multi-purpose machine with uses in multiple industries. How do you think their new technology will affect industrial manufacturing overall? Discuss in the MSLA 3D Printing forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source: 3DEngr]
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